Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tahoe Rim Tour Snowshoe Race
Showing up to a Nordic race with snowshoes in hand is kind of like being an ultrarunner at a triathlon. You are surrounded by slim, fit athletes with the very best, top-of-the-line gear their niche sport has to offer. And you? You’re wearing a down jacket and a pair of ragged Nike tights and feeling a little self-conscious about how they make your butt look. Or maybe that’s just me.
This was the scene at the start of last weekend’s Tahoe Rim Tour, a half-marathon ski and snowshoe race from Tahoe City to Northstar resort in Truckee. In the 20 degree morning chill, I made my way towards registration across a parking lot full of lanky skiers. I plowed through a sea of Craft tights, Toko tops, and approximately a thousand Swix beanies. Don’t forget your Swix beanie!
I immediately found my friend Helen, who was signed up for the classic ski division, and confessed, “You know, I kind of wish I was skiing since I know I would finish faster, but at the same time, I’m glad I’m not, since all these people would kick my butt!” She nodded in sympathy.
At least I know my place—and that’s with the runners. The one’s who aren’t coordinated enough to be real skiers.
I found myself standing around, a bit lost because I don’t know anything about wax. Seriously, you can’t have a conversation with a Nordic skier before a race unless you know how to talk about wax. What colors, how many layers, klister or no klister. People were busy with last minute scraping and buffing, running fingers across perfect bases.
One skier did ask me about my snowshoes though, and I was happy to feign my expertise on the subject for him.
Eventually I found Jamie and Jack at the registration table, and we all made our way to the start, where we gladly let the skiers take the lead.
I had hemmed and hawed about even entering a snowshoe race this far, since my previous two racing experiences on snowshoes, both 5K, showed me the challenges of this sport. Last year Jamie had horror stories about how hard this race had been, so I couldn’t believe she was back for more. She didn’t bother trying to talk me into it, but her mere presence shamed me into showing up. Having a training partner who’s tougher than me is such a good thing!
As it turned out, we set a decent, but reasonable, pace, and Jamie and I ran together the whole way. All we did was talk and run. It was perfect! There weren’t a ton of snowshoers, but we spent our entire two hours and thirteen minutes gradually catching and passing many of them.
The weather was perfect—partly sunny, warm, but cool enough to maintain firm trail conditions. Fast!
In the last mile, I finally decided to catch this man in a blue top whom we had been seeing for the past hour. I was annoyed at the fact that he hadn’t been getting any closer to us! I kicked it up a notch and caught up to him. I immediately confessed that I’d been trying to catch him forever. There wasn’t time for a response before he zoomed ahead of me again. Ha! I was actually quite enjoying the chase.
I had nothing at all at stake, so I gave it another go. We were flying downhill, and my only concern was that I might trip and fall—a real possibility!
I caught up to him one more time, but in the end, I never did pass the guy. After we crossed the finish line, we immediately exchanged high-fives and smiles. Clearly we’d both enjoyed ourselves. I love early-season fun at races!
Post-race activities included a chili-fest, some sitting in the sun with friends, and a huge number of raffle prizes. Cash prizes were given away to skinny young people who all seemed to have names like Bjorn and Hans, and snowshoers got cash prizes, too. I came away with a sweet pair of insulated Salamon Nordic gloves.
After Jamie left, conversation seemed to center around wax again, and I decided it was time to bail. I caught the free shuttle back to the start, and realized that maybe this snowshoeing thing isn’t so bad when you have a friend to run with.
Thanks to all the skiers for putting up with the goofy snowshoers on the trail, and thanks to Farwest Nordic and Northstar for a beautiful January day!